Monthly Archives: April 2010

Maria Jastrzębska’s Everyday Angels

Maria Jastrzębska by Tricia Wass

Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to England as a child. She studied Developmental Psychology at the University of Sussex and has done various jobs including teaching English and teaching Self Defence to girls and women. She lives in Brighton and works part time as a Community Interpreter and for the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service in schools as well as teaching Creative Writing.
She is the winner of the Off_Press International Writing Competition and the author of five poetry collections: Postcards From Poland (Working Press), Home from Home (Flarestack, 2002), Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004), I’ll Be Back Before You Know It (Pighog Press, 2009) and Everyday Angels (Waterloo Press, 2009). She was a co-editor of Forum Polek – Polish Women’s Forum, Poetry South (Pighog Press) and Whoosh! – Queer Writing South Anthology (Pighog Press).
Her own work has been much anthologised, most recently in See How I Land – Oxford Poets & Refugees (Heaven Tree Press, 2009), Telling Tales About Dementia (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009) and Antologia (Off_Press, 2010). Her drama, Dementia Diaries, was premiered in April 2009 by Lewes Live Literature. Her work has been translated into French, Japanese, Polish, Romanian and Slovenian. She is currently translating a collection by leading Slovenian poet Iztok Osojnik with translator and scholar Ana Jelnikar to be published in early 2011 by Pighog Press.

“Everyday Angels is a book filled with stories, such great vivid stories that span many worlds, that of Poland and Britain and those places where they overlap in the past and present. Jastrzębska’s poems have the beauty, warmth and rhythm of natural speech – a language that takes me directly into the poems. She has a ‘good ear’ and it serves her well. Moving, precise scenes and portraits bring a sense of true history. Tenderness and affection, grief and pain, duties and debts between generations, between us humans. Most of all, the poems show a deep respect for and fascination with people with all their faults and virtues and their marvels. I loved reading this unforgettable book.”
– Lee Harwood
“Maria Jastrzębska’s poetry explores major concerns of our age – exile, dementia and sexuality. She records the resilience of parents forced to leave their country, giving the places, people and rituals they left a shimmering, out-of-reach quality. This estrangement is embedded in language rich with names and phrases, always on the seam of the surreal. A mother at different stages of her life, but in particular fractured by dementia, girls on a bus, lovers, aunts – Jastrzębska’s writing is knowing and humane. This is an uplifting collection.”
– Jackie Wills
“There’s a subtlety and seeing-round corners perspective to her poems that could be Polish, could be queer or could just be pure Jastrzębska.”
– John O’Donoghue
Babcia Zosia

Oj Babciu
I never got a chance to tell you.
No bo niby jak, kiedy?
I loved your gravelly voice
even lower than Babcia Kicia’s
and everyone thought she was a bloke.
“Eye um nott sur, Eye um madam!”
she’d bellow down the phone.
You rasped like a jazz singer
in some smokey dive bar,
gruff with sex.
Your voice didn’t match how you looked –
cropped silver hair and sensible shoes.
I heard stories about you,
widowed young, no kids, driving
ambulances in the war, oj Babciu.
Za mało, za mało o Tobie wiem.
Your clothes were shabbier than ours.
We had our first electric fridge,
you put food out in snowdrifts on the sill.
We watched Dr.Who, while you tried
to get the BBC World Service on your radio
when the Russians didn’t jam the signal.
You promised you’d be back to see me
but you didn’t sound sure,
‘if I can save enough pennies’, you said.
Oj Babciu. I already knew.
* Babcia – gran, granny, great aunt.
Par Avion
When I send your parcel, there’s always
a queue. I’ve forgotten the cellotape,
so I have to buy more as well as a flat pak.
I want to take off my coat, but there’s nowhere
to put it and I’m already carrying too much:
your presents, my hat, gloves and now the box.
Luckily Rena takes pity on me, shows me
how to undo the flaps. I’m still trying
to join them all together, when an old woman
stands next to me. In a brown fake fur coat
and flesh-coloured tights, she’s bent
almost double, filling in a form.
Ripping cellotape with my teeth, I smile
and make room for her. Silently she points
to everything I keep dropping. Does Antoś
even like Spiderman, will Paweł think
a rucksack’s boring, maybe Ewka would have
preferred pink instead of lime green?
It used to be simpler: you could send
Nescafe, tea or, since it was still rationed,
always more chocolate. Before that
people sent blankets, men’s jackets, Ceres fats
no one there knew what to do with. Or else
it was Odorono and injections of liver extract.
It’s not as if we’re the first exchanging gifts
across this divide; before us our mothers
and grandmothers worrying if they’d sent
the right thing, would it arrive in one piece,
like the bottle of halibut oil, which did,
the ‘heavenly’ blue dress, exactly the right size.
Babcie over there sent me classics, favourites
in hardback no one here had heard of:
Tuwim, Sienkiewicz, Słowacki. Orphan
Marysia or the billy goat forever in trouble
and Hałabała who lived in a tree hollow,
frying bilberry pancakes on a tiny wood-stove.
Are you worrying what to send us? Please,
no more stuffed birds. No matter how colourful.
But send pictures – of anything, people
on a tram. In my photo of Ewka she’s still
a toddler, but probably by now she’s a Goth.
Would she have preferred something black?
By the time I’ve stuck everything down,
the old woman is leaving. ‘Cheerio!’ I call
after her, but she can’t hear me. I reach the front
of the queue, place your parcel on the scales at last.
I’ve stuffed the empty spaces with today’s
sports page, which I normally use as kindling.
But will the cellotape keep your parcel
safe, all that way, crammed into holds,
crossing borders through thick snow to arrive
in a quiet dawn at your door? I wish
I’d bought the thicker kind. Rena says:
Best to send this as small packet.
Planting Out Cabbages

I envied the altar boys
their white cassocks
and being allowed to ring the bell
before communion, but I had my eye
on the priest’s job.
Folded tea towels over my arm
and picking up a plastic doily mat,
trance-like round the kitchen, I copied
the solemn way he walked
carrying a silver tray
of flesh and blood which had come to us
from Mary’s womb
in the unlikely form of fruit.
Years later, the tai chi teacher traced
the shape of clouds through the air,
turning in slow motion on the spot.
She spoke of moving meditation.
I knew exactly what she meant.
I’d had years of sermons
when the priest thundered about the evil of divorce.
But then there was one (there’s always one
and for that I do thank God)
a priest who said prayer was something
you could do anywhere –
devotion found in the simplest task
even planting out cabbages,
which the brothers did in the vegetable patch
behind the chapel.
Tonight I wash my hands and face
at the sink, warm water slipping on my skin.
Delicious task.
We’ve come in from a chill, starry night
after seeing friends. You’re falling asleep on the sofa –
a defiant look on your face – and won’t go to bed
just like your daughter
when she’s too tired to know it.
The house is quiet and it’s late;
every part of the silver darkness
is there outside. I pull the curtains across.

I’m Taking My Daughter’s Violin to be Mended
I’m taking my daughter’s violin to be mended
when I notice three giraffes lolloping
down Portland Rd. I stop at the corner shop
to get some apples and see Tinu wearing
his cricket whites. He says it’s not the first time
those giraffes have turned up. He shows me
the new internet café at the back; it’s full
of lemon trees and gardenias. I’m about to ask
how they’ll survive the Winter, when I realise
the bass guitarist from Putrefaction is there
drinking chai. Naturally, I get his autograph,
which he scrawls onto a sheet of Elgar’s
Grade 5 piece, Salut d’Amor, tucked in the pocket
of my daughter’s violin case. The giraffes
have stopped by the elm tree just outside
so as I’m leaving, even though I’m in a hurry,
I offer them some of my apples.

Trupki Moje Trupki
“Trupki moje trupki, trupki wszystkie razem
trupki tanczą rumbę, cmentarz jest pod gazem.”
“Corpses, my old corpses having us a ball
dancing to the rumba, rat-arsed one and all.”
It’s not that the dead don’t argue back
they do and in the end
of course they have the last laugh
but the wind flaps in the birch trees
like a snowy bird.
Squirrels are greedy acrobats
waiting for handouts.
They put you at your ease,
make you feel at home.
Even the living are different here,
they’ll let you borrow a watering can
and their grief isn’t all buttoned up.
Coach-loads arrive to catch up with their dead.
Friends, families come from overseas,
they bring flags and bugles, ready
to salute or just to say hello.
You’ve never seen so many candles lit.
Lilies, roses everywhere –
the living chat freely with the dead
and the dead listen as they never did before
and the distance between them
though it doesn’t diminish
shimmers like a sheet of flame.
At this time of year, black
nets for catching olives
are spread like widow’s crêpe,
under the trees. Dry leaves
like thousands of little fishes
crackle silver under my feet.
There are enough white pebbles
to skim the motionless water.
I find orchids in wild grass.
Wisteria petals blow
into my salad, lizards appear
as I’m about to turn away
and all over again
your death catches me out.
Published in Everyday Angels (Waterloo Press, 2009).
Order Everyday Angels.
Visit South Pole, Art with a Polish connection.
Read three of Maria’s poems on the Poetry International Web.
Visit Maria’s page at poetry p f.

Home Away launch

Zukiswa Wanner, Sarah Britten, Naomi Nkealah, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Moky Makura, Fiona Snyckers, Jassy Mackenzie, Makhosazana Xaba, Jo-Anne Richards, Kathryn White, and Louis Greenberg, will be at the launch on Wednesday, 12 May 2010, to sign books and say hello.

Kerouac in France

“I tried to hitchhike through Provence, outside Aix, where Cézanne painted, ended up hiking 20 miles but it was worth it …  sat on side of hills and pencil sketched drawings of the Cézanne country, dull red rusty rooftops, blue hills, white stones, green fields, hasn’t changed in all these years … mauve tan farm houses in quiet fertile farmer’s valleys, rustic, with weathered pink powder roof tiles, a grey green mild warmness, voices of girls, gray stacks of baled hay, a fertilized chalky garden, a cherry tree in white bloom (April), a rooster crowing at mid day mildly, tall Cézanne trees in back … etc. just like Cézanne nein? Then a rattly old bus through Arles country, the restless afternoon trees of Van Gogh in the high mistral wind, the cypress rows tossing, yellow tulips in window boxes, a vast outdoor café with huge awning, and the gold sunlight …”
– Jack Kerouac in a letter to Ed White dated 28 April 1957

The Dark Labyrinth

“We act our inner symbolism outward into the world. In a very real sense we do create the world around us since we get it to reflect back our inner symbolism at us. Every man carries a little myth-making machine inside him which operates often without him knowing it. Thus you might say that we live by a very exacting kind of poetic logic – since we get exactly what we ask for, no more and no less.”
– Lawrence Durrell, The Dark Labyrinth

Norman Buller’s Fools and Mirrors

Norman Buller was born and grew up in Birmingham, England. He was educated at Fircroft College, Birmingham and St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English. He became one of the Cambridge poets of the early 1950s and his verse appeared in magazines and anthologies alongside that of Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes.
From the mid-1950s for about twenty-five years Buller wrote very little. His occupation was in careers advisory work at the universities of Sheffield, Queen’s Belfast and Birmingam. While at Belfast he took part in Philip Hobsbaum’s creative soirée alongside Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and others and throughout that time published only one pamphlet of thirteen poems in 1965. Buller flared into print 30 years later with a pamphlet Travelling Light (Waterloo, 2005) swiftly followed by his first full collection Sleeping with Icons (Waterloo, 2007), which has been praised in journals including Envoi and Poetry Salzburg Review.
Buller has been published in anthologies and journals including, in the UK, Acumen, Outposts, The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine, The Rialto, Cambridge Left and in the USA, The California Quarterly and The Comstock Review. He has had two previous chapbooks published, Thirteen Poems (Festival Publications, Queen’s University Belfast, 1965) and Travelling Light (Waterloo, 2005). His verse has been awarded prizes including first place in the Ware Poetry Competition.

Fools and Mirrors
Norman Buller
Waterloo Press, 2009
Norman Buller’s second full collection confronts the universal prism that Fools and Mirrors us. Behind the prosodic elegance beats an earthy vitalism that tussles with a disembodied, spiritual distrust of the physical – a fascinating dynamic. ‘Portraits by Francis Bacon’ captures the tortured carnality of that artist’s work, its misanthropic grotesquery provoking the poet’s Gulliverish revulsion at the animal in us. But Buller’s pessimism is more sceptical than devout, and when saying ‘we dream a sense of purpose/ …the rest is meat’, a sense of salvation triumphs in the beauty of such phrasing.
In stark contrast is an appetite for Lawrentian symbolism: ‘roadsides yellowed/ by phalluses of broom’. A poet deeply sceptical of the turn society has taken over the last three decades, Buller’s work is alert to an encroaching decadence that most pretend isn’t there. His is a humanistic politics that laments the post-War consensus, while quietly accusing capitalism of its gradual dismantling; from Aldermaston to the eerie blue skies of Manhattan 9/11.
In a more theological vein, Buller probes the spiritual life of Martin Luther, and, antithetically, Cardinal Newman, and Pope Innocent the Tenth via Velasquez. This detour through Catholicism echoes the Thomism of David Jones’s oeuvre: art as sacrament. There are portraits of Kandinsky, Klee, Chagall, and Walter Sickert via a model’s cockneyish idiom. Aphorisms flourish: ‘A church bell summons the faithful./ Something will endure’, or the sublime ‘…I wring your shadow in my hands’.
Alun Lewis and Dylan Thomas haunt ‘and night again prepares to bear/ the village away in sleep’, while ‘Dear Gerard’ ghosts Manley Hopkins uncannily. Such echoing of past voices, no mere pastiche, is almost mediumistic. The book’s core theme is mortality and the artist’s impulse to transcend it: ‘The poet aspires to the condition of art,/ a thing made which outlasts its maker’. Buller’s is a voice of endurance through self-transcendence whose historical verisimilitude makes for a more vital addressing of the present.

At The Three Crowns Inn
Sepia photographs
tell their dusty history
from walls that frame
this present clutter of strangers.
A rose-vine agitates
the latticed window,
rasping in the wind.
Across the yard
a rotting cider-press
lingers from
the same relinquished past.
Desultory birds,
not content with song,
sketch a sporadic music on the wires.
Twilight begins to alter
and shrink the landscape
while candles martyr
into melted wax.
Soon the gaggle of voices
thins to silence,
the strangers gone.
Fools and Mirrors
We fail each other when we meet,
compelled to see
into a glass reflecting what
we cannot be.
A second glass appears by phone
or written word;
there absence fools and mirrors us
in the absurd,
each loving what we’ve fashioned there.
So, to defeat
the truthful glass, should we stay fools
and never meet?
(after Georg Trakl)
Recall again those tranquil days,
a gift of happiness from unknown hands.
Look! That town where a fountain plays
remembered music running into sands
of silence. The sick girl waits for him
in a scent of roses. He foresees her death
and wanders where the woods are dim
with sadness. See, the stars hold their breath
and dampen their fires! The mating shriek
of a bird fractures the silence. His shadow closes
on hers as if in embrace. Her weak
smile accepts a sheaf of crimson roses
laid in her hands. His soul is drawn
to her suffering. But at last her face betrays
death’s rigor. Now she moves through corn
and roses and will move through him always.
Of Love
Love is a growing, or full constant light;
                                                 John Donne

Love is not he-and-she
forever whirling
in nature’s tombola of lust.
Love is the Good Samaritan’s charity,
a father’s joy
at the Prodigal Son’s return.
Love is the only raft
afloat in the hurricane;
love is a drowning man reaching the shore.
Love is the bliss of knowing,
without even touching,
that the other is simply there.
Published in Fools and Mirrors (Waterloo Press, 2009).
Order Fools and Mirrors.
Visit Norman’s website.

Grace of the Gamblers: A Chantilly Chantey

Naomi Foyle

Naomi Foyle was born in London, England, grew up in Hong Kong, Liverpool and Saskatchewan, and now lives in Brighton a short walk from the sea. Originally trained in theatre, Naomi has collaborated with artists, musicians and filmmakers on award-winning projects including the video poem Good Definition (2004) and the Canadian opera Hush (1990), while her international readings include appearances at The Cuisle Festival in Limerick, and Tacheles Art House in Berlin. She brings both literary and performance skills to her debut collection The Night Pavilion — a scintillating cabaret of ballads, riddling lyric verse, and erotic prose poetry, and an Autumn 2008 Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Naomi is also the author of several pamphlets, including Red Hot & Bothered (Lansdowne Press, Hove, 2003), which won the Apples & Snakes 2008 ‘The Book Bites Back’ competition, and Grace of the Gamblers: A Chantilly Chantey (Waterloo Press, 2009), the latest fruit of her long-standing interest in Irish history and poetry. Naomi holds an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths College, and is currently working towards a doctorate in Creative Writing from Bangor University.

Grace of the Gamblers
A Chantilly Chantey
A ‘Waterloo Slims’ ballad pamphlet by Naomi Foyle
Illustrated by Peter Griffiths
Gráinne Ní Mháille, known in English as Grace O’Malley, is a legendary Irish figure. Pirate, chieftain, gambler, sea-trader, and near-exact contemporary of Elizabeth I, she ruled the West Coast of Ireland for over forty turbulent years. In the spirit of the urban broadsheets that kept tales of early modern female adventurers alive and singing, this strikingly illustrated ballad pamphlet is a vigorous and musical account of Gráinne’s notorious deeds.
Grace of the Gamblers is a bravura performance. Foyle captures the swash and buckle of Ireland’s greatest sea-faring heroine with a poetry that is charged with wit and vivacity. Herstory is brought vividly to life as Foyle charts Grace O’Malley’s remarkable journey from the dangerous seas off the West Coast of Ireland to the even more treacherous court of Queen Elizabeth I.”
– Nessa O’Mahony
“Naomi Foyle’s exuberant, resonant new work treats us to the wonderfully feisty Grainne Ní Mháille ‘s adventures in a ballad – a form long associated with women singers, composers and sailors – written here with bang-up minute freshness and verve. ‘Grace of the Gamblers, wanton and bold’ … springs off the page and into the reader’s imagination with characteristic courage and energy.”
– Catherine Smith

Grace of the Gamblers
A Chantilly Chantey
O come to the convent, young ladies of Mayo,
     We’ll arm you with needles and thread.
Outside in the trenches, a summer of spuds
     Is rotting away like the dead…
                                             in their beds …
     Is rotting away like the dead.

Along the grey sands, an ocean is foaming
     Like spit on the lips of the starved.
But girls who can stitch white lace in fine patterns
     Will be fatter than cows due to calve.
                                                       To carve!
     Fatter than cows due to calve.

And when you are working your edgings and sprigs,
     Spinning your bobbins and nets,
Remember you’re not the first canny colleens
     To unravel the Englishman’s threats.
                                                       Don’t forget
     To unravel the Englishman’s threats.

For this is the ballad of Gráinne Ní Mháille,
     Queen of the West Irish Coast.
At ten years of age she hacked off her hair
     And blazoned the air with a boast:
‘Me Ma must let me set sail to Spain,
     For I am me father’s daughter.
One day I’ll captain his galleys and men
     And govern the stormiest water.’
The old fella guffawed, took her aboard,
     Glad of a girl with gumption;
Under his wing she studied the stars,
     The tides and perfect presumption.
For Pa was a Chieftain, his hard-won crown
     A silver sea studded with islets,
And if Gráinne could swagger on deck like a man,
     She’d be after commanding his pirates.
Wind at her neck, salt stinging her lips,
     The crop-headed lassie in britches
Grew into a woman named Granuaile,
     Intent on increasing her riches —
Galley bellies groaning with goods,
     Spare cutlasses stashed in the flax,
In between bartering wool for wine,
     She was rifling wrecks on the rocks!
But a good Gaelic girl must marry and mother,
     The womb is a powerful smithy ―
When Granuaile wed an O’Flaherty man
     The whiskey it flowed like the Liffey.
She bore him three tiddlers, collected his rents,
     Defended his land with her vessels;
But Donal, that eejit, died in an ambush,
     Leaving her trapped in Cock’s Castle.
O Granuaile’s story is shaping up swell,
     Like a river of Limerick lace,
It toiles and billows, tumbles and sprays,
     Til history’s calling her Grace.
                                             Her Grace…
     Now history’s calling her Grace.
Order Grace of the Gamblers (Waterloo Press, 2009).

Daffodils, daffodils, daffodils

for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere …
“When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore, and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more; and at last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road.
I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and about them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow, for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake; they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing.”
– Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal, 15 April 1802

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch: Six Poems

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch by Keith Morris

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch has published two collections of poems, the latest of which, Not In These Shoes (Picador, 2008) was short-listed for Wales Book of the Year 2009.
Her work has been published in Poetry Wales, Poetry London, Poetry Ireland, the Independent and the Forward Anthology 2002 and 2009 as well as broadcast on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Scotland. She has read at the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, the University of Ottawa, Concordia University Montral, the Jagiellonian University Krakow and for the Arvon Foundation.
Samantha studied Classics at Cambridge followed by an MA in Writing at the University of Wales Cardiff. She has received awards for her work from the Society of Authors (2007), the Hawthornden Foundation (2005) and Academi (1997 and 2002). She is currently an Affiliate of Birkbeck College London (Research in Representations of Kinship and Community).
Willow Pattern
When you dropped the plate, the bridge broke
in two and the tiny blue ferns were torn.
Like us they would not mend. They spoke
in their dismembering; we could not mourn.
I wrote your name in willowy
handwriting on a scrap of paper, dropped
it in a jar of jasmine tea
which three hours in the freezer turned to rock.
On our first walk I plucked a fern,
arranged it in a cast full of hot wax.
Now the candle is almost burnt
away, a hard miniature pool acts
as evidence on a plate, a spell
cast and lost on a pagoda shell.

Above the stove his longjohns hang
where he pegged them on June 10th 1911.
A pin-up of a girl’s naked back
beside his bunk is curling up to his
spilt shelf of charts and logs, the diary’s yard
of ink. Frozen to death, outside,
the remains of a dog, chained in ice.
And here, Ponting’s darkroom, reliquary
of vials and plates splayed like cards.
On the table where Scott raised a final
birthday glass, a visitor has tried a slice
of a hundred year-old ham. Tins
of boiled mutton, brawn, Tate & Lyle
syrup lie thick and slow as the snow’s
drift, preserving an era’s hour.
And what of the women they left behind,
pausing each night on the stairs
to wind the heart of a clock,
folding and unfolding clothes, reading
and re-reading letters, weighing
each word, like a body?
Brighton West Pier
Last week I saw it again, staggering
like a shot beast in the high tide,
the pavilion a skull half sunk, gnawing
at its stilts. A telephone receiver swung
from the tangled guts of the bar.
Of course I have witnessed dereliction before:
mantelpieces three floors up,
the remnants of passion fluttering
in the torn wallpaper of virtual rooms,
the cross-section of intimacy.
But this reclaiming by sea of our
tentative steps leaves me
precarious: those Saturday nights
when I would catch my breath outside
its stuccoed façade, stilettoed,
tiptoeing between strips of sea foaming
below, a note from a saxophone
thrown to the wind, hearing his voice
on the line half a century ago,
still swaying there.

Grandfather Clock
For once I wasn’t in love with the auctioneer.
I put my hand into your side, long and polished,
felt your entrails sleek through my fingers
like an anchor, your deep-throated tick
that stopped the day my grandpa died.
Your face was worn out, the inscription eroded
below the holy-eyed lion, the anvil lavishly
black. I raised a glass to you, tick tock,
the day you were carried off.
Take this one for instance from her own album:
Crown Duchess Tatiana rollerblading flirts
across the deck of the royal yacht, Standart
or even in this one whilst under house arrest,
Anastasia, planting cabbage seeds and cress
is radiant in muslin, surrounded by guards.
                            May 4th, 1917: all five over
the mumps now, so my darlings had their heads shaved,
then were photographed in a line all in black!

The Execution Archive for that year states
the bald facts: at twelve the Romanovs were told
to dress, stand in a row. It was necessary
to finish off the girls with bayonets – their corsets,
laced with diamonds had turned the bullets back.
The Stain

Come to think of it, in a certain light
it looked ochre, all down the staircase,
marking the site of some terrible accident,
except that we all knew it had been tea
and that it was me who had dropped the tray,
collecting every fragment before an audience
of twenty in the hotel lobby, going to pieces
but acting like it was a regular clear-up.
The interior scar I lived with for months
like your death at twenty-one. Six weeks
before you jumped, you gave me your old desk –
but it was only after you’d leapt that I found
the inkstain in one of the rosewood drawers
and thought about the colour of the stones on the shore.
Visit Samantha’s website.
Read more about Samantha at Contemporary Writers.
Order Rockclimbing in Silk and Not In These Shoes.

Once upon a time

“Fairytales were maps formed of blood and hair and bones; they were the knots of the sub-conscious unwound. Every word in every tale was real and as true as apples and stones. They all led to the story inside the story.”
– Alice Hoffman
“A red map isn’t easy to follow. Any document made of blood and bones is tricky. Wrong turns are easily made, and there are often piles of stones in the road. A person has to disregard time and sorrow and all the damage done. If you follow, if you dare, the thread always leads to whomever or whatever you’ve forgotten …”

– Alice Hoffman
“I always felt and still feel that fairytales have an emotional truth that is so deep that there are few things that really rival them.”
– Alice Hoffman